Model UN students take on the role of diplomats to tackle one of the greatest challenges of our time: environmental migration

On 18 and 19 January, students from around the world gathered at the Vienna International Centre for an authentic United Nations experience. The conference was organized by the University of Vienna and the Vienna University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) and supported by the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna and UN Environment. The well-timed theme of the conference this year was "Environmental Migration".

The opening ceremony featured speeches from Martin Nesirky, Director of UNIS Vienna; Matthias Jurek from UN Environment; Joe Lowry, Senior Media and Communications Officer for the Regional Office of the UN Migration Agency (IOM) in Vienna; and Karl Prummer, Deputy Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN in Vienna.

All speakers praised the fortunate circumstances allowing this Model UN conference to take place at the United Nations in Vienna, saying that it added to the authenticity of the event. The speakers highlighted the importance of the theme of this year's conference, providing statistics on current migration trends and information on initiatives and programmes that address environmental migration. Each speaker provided concrete evidence to corroborate that climate change and natural disasters indeed force people to become environmental migrants.

The organizers of this year's conference were very proud to also offer live interpretation services throughout the negotiations. Those who preferred to listen to the proceedings in Italian, German, or Hungarian were in luck because young interpreters from the UNIVERSITAS Austria Interpreters' and Translators' Association were  stationed at the UN interpretation booths providing simultaneous interpretation into the various languages.

During the closing session, participants praised each other for handling the negotiations with earnest and professionalism. According to a participant from New Zealand, "environmental migration is going to be one of the biggest challenges for our generation, especially with the increased effects of climate change, a lot of the small island nations will lose land and may even disappear. There needs to be a lot of multilateral cooperation to figure out how we're going to deal with this."